Lewis Hamilton and Ayrton Senna among fastest ever in F1’s ultimate list ranking

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An official Formula One study has ranked legend Ayrton Senna as the fastest driver of all time, narrowly beating Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton to top spot.

The study aimed to compare drivers across four decades to name the fastest based on pure qualifying speed alone using an an algorithm taking data from all qualifying sessions since 1983.

F1 used technology from sponsor Amazon Web Services (AWS) to reach the conclusion, which was based factoring in various rules and discounting car performance.

The results put Senna 0.114s ahead of Schumacher on a theoretical qualifying 'lap', with six-time champion Hamilton 0.275s back in third.

The trio are already widely regarded by many as right up there in the debate for best F1 driver of all time, winning 16 world championships between them.

Senna set a record of 65 pole positions before his death in 1994, starting from the front for 40 per cent of all his races.

Schumacher went past that mark in 2006 before Hamilton eclipsed the German and not holds the record with 92 pole positions with a career ratio of 36 per cent.

Controversially, the top ten list does not feature world champions from the era, including Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen, but does feature Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, who spent large proportions of their careers at midfield teams.

Max Verstappen was fourth ahead of Fernando Alonso, who returns to F1 next year with Renault, and Nico Rosberg.

McLaren's Lando Norris, in his second season of F1 only, was 15th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and 2009 former champion Jenson Button.

With data only going back 27 years, it meant the sport's first 16 world champions such as Juan-Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark were not featured in the research.

Former Ferrari and Williams engineer Rob Smedley, who now works for F1, said teams use similar studies when deciding who to sign as a driver.

"Within the team environment this type of modelling is used to make key decisions on driver choices," Smedley said. "As drivers are more often than not the most expensive asset of the team it is important that the selection process is as robust as possible.

"A process such as this therefore would be deployed by the F1 team's strategists in order to present the most objective and evidence-based selection possible. Fastest Driver enables us to build up a picture of how the drivers compare, by analysing the purest indication of raw speed, the qualifying lap — and it's important to note this pure speed is the only element of the vast driver armoury we are analysing here, to showcase the quickest drivers ever, which is very exciting."

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Top 10 list

1. Ayrton Senna – 0.000

2. Michael Schumacher – +0.114

3. Lewis Hamilton – +0.275

4. Max Verstappen – +0.280

5. Fernando Alonso – +0.309

6. Nico Rosberg – +0.374

7. Charles Leclerc – +0.376

8. Heikki Kovalainen – +0.378

9. Jarno Trulli – +0.409

10. Sebastian Vettel – +0.435

  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Michael Schumacher
  • F1
  • Formula One

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